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Day 25: Breckenridge or Bust

Updated: Aug 30, 2022

My “early” start turned into an 8:15 AM start by the time I was out the door. My "early" starts have a bad habit of doing that… But almost immediately I ran into two other cycle tourists. They were on a small tour through Colorado. Salida is really a central location for all kinds of cycle tourists!

I had reached out to a couple of Warmshowers hosts and one of them couldn’t host me, but gave me some advice on my route. He said the highways from Salida to Breckenridge were pretty bad because they were heavily trafficked without much shoulder. He advised I take a gravel route instead.

Under normal circumstances I would have loved to do that. But with the threat of rain imminent, I didn’t want to slow down and ride on gravel as that would just increase my chances of getting drenched.

He was absolutely right about the high amounts of traffic on the highways. It was easily the busiest road I had been on yet, and traffic is all going over 65 MPH. The shoulders, while tight in some places, were generally wide enough that I wasn’t too uncomfortable despite all the cars. And even with the cars, the area I was riding through was beautiful enough for me to be happy with my route. I have always associated Colorado with big mountains and lots of trees. However, where I was riding now was lots of high altitude plains and rolling fields.

I had 6,000 feet of climbing that day, and I got sprinkled on a few times when I was climbing over passes, but nothing major. I was able to just keep riding hard all the way into Breckenridge, but not before stopping at two more bakeries less than a block apart in Fairplay, CO.

Like usual, I kept a lookout for anything resembling a bakery. I spotted a cookie place and bought a cookie sandwich. However, instead of ice cream in the middle it was a buttercream and was delicious. I knew I would be returning to Mountain Top Cookie Shop, especially when I saw their discounted bags of day-old cookies.

I then found my way to Leslie‘s house. She would be my host for the night, and she also had some snacks for me including some shrimp, crackers, and hummus! These days I really can’t say no to more food. She hadn’t gone on any longer tours like mine, but instead frequently went on shorter tours on a tandem bike. This was better for her work schedule. One thing I really value is the ability to take long vacations of at least a month, and there are few careers where that’s an option… Really narrows down a lot of my possible choices, but maybe one day the right career will fall into my lap. I had wanted to do this trip so I would have a lot of time to think on what I want to do, but I found out that despite long days on the road, I rarely have the free headspace to really think about those things. I usually have to concentrate too much on cars and staying within narrow shoulders to get too distracted with more introspective thoughts.

After the snack, Leslie tells me about a bakery I missed and we go out for a couple of drinks and to hit up the bakery. This would mark my first experience in the US of sitting at a bar! I’m 22 years old, but my birthday is April, 7th. In California, everything shut down right at the end of March, effectively canceling my 21st birthday and things have remained shut down in California basically right up until I left. So I never had the chance to visit a bar until now. Leslie ended up buying my two drinks, so you could say it was a pretty crazy 21st birthday celebration!

Heading back home, I fell asleep on the couch with the lights on again. It has happened a few times on this trip. After a long day of riding, I’m often pretty exhausted and more exhausted than I think. The weather was supposed to be alright for the following day, which I was happy to hear as the next day I would be tackling the hardest segment of my whole trip, 150 miles of the Colorado Trail. A trail notorious for having long sections of rock that are impossible to bike over and would result in miles of hike n' bike. It’s primarily a hiking trail, so the terrain is considered hard even on a full suspension bike. My bike had no suspension. The advice I got from someone who had rode the trail was that it was probably doable on a rigid bike like mine, but not with panniers. I had panniers, although they were small. So for a variety of reasons, I knew the next few days were going to be tough.

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